7 Highly Useful Mentoring Techniques

By Jan Murray
Techniques for mentoring

Last updated

What is a Mentor?

You may be wondering,

What, exactly, is the role of a mentor.

It's a simple question with a multi-faceted answer. A mentor is an individual that provides;

  • guidance
  • support

...to an employee, intern, or new hire, ...a mentee.

The purpose is to help that person reach their maximum potential — QUICKLY!

When guided by the insights and experience of a mentor, the mentee's contributions to the success of the organisation come sooner rather than later. The value they add becomes exponential. Job satisfaction skyrockets. Employee retention soars.

That's the goal.

Technique #1: Active Listening

You may have heard that listening is a key skill for mentors. It's true.

We call it Active Listening.

And, while it sounds simple, it can actually be quite challenging to maintain. The brain processes information four times faster than the speed of speech, which makes it easy for the mind to wander.

While our ears are always open, constantly receiving and decoding sound, 99% of sensory information is screened out to prevent overloading. That's a problem because when we are not fully attentive to the conversation, we miss the nuances and deeper meanings of what's being said.

This can lead to poor decisions and bad choices.

Good choices depend on being entirely present in a conversation. And this requires quieting the mind to avoid premature judgment, and focusing-in on the speaker. In other words, paying close attention to both their words and their nonverbal cues.

Active listening involves;

  • summarising what you heard,
  • confirming it with the speaker
  • and making sure you accurately understand their message.

For most people, this takes practice. A mentor can accelerate the process for the mentee.

Active Listening Methods:

Here's a list of methodologies and strategies that you, as a good mentor, would use to ensure you're paying proper attention to the mentee:

  1. Show that you're listening - demonstrate active engagement with the speaker.
  2. Stay focused - maintain your attention on what is being said.
  3. Face the speaker and maintain eye contact - signal your interest in the conversation.
  4. Listen without judgement - enter the conversation with a quiet, open mind.
  5. Never interrupt - allow the speaker to fully express themselves. Remember that, when they have something in mind to say, they aren't hearing you anyway - they're busy thinking about what they are going to say. So, be sure to hear them out before you speak.
  6. Pay close attention to non-verbal cues - consider the speaker's body language and tone.
  7. Don't impose your opinions or solutions - avoid dictating the conversation.
  8. Ask questions - clarify and further explore what the speaker is saying.
  9. Paraphrase and summarise - reflect back what you've heard to confirm understanding.
  10. Don't start planning what to say next - focus entirely on the speaker's message.

Remember, practice makes perfect, so keep these techniques in mind and actively practice them when you meet with your mentee. Gradually they'll become the core of your overall interviewing method which will lead to benefits in other areas of your life as well.

Mentor Mentee

Technique #2: Use Open-Ended Questions

Open-ended questions, such as Who, What, Where, When, Why, & How  are the essence of effective mentoring techniques and strategies. Remember, your aim is to encourage the mentee to express themselves as you lead them to discover their own solutions.

Only amateurs do all the talking and try to provide all the answers. The masters of mentoring know that asking questions to gain insight into the mentee's thoughts is key to learning the menteeā€™s feelings, aspirations and values. By asking questions that facilitate natural conversation, you'll gradually gain insights into their goals and priorities as they expand on their thoughts while engaging with you.

Use questions like:

  • Can you elaborate on that?
  • Are there any additional details we should consider?
  • What makes you think that?
  • Why do you suppose they did that?
  • What do you think we should do?
  • Are you satisfied with the result or do you think we can do better?

...and so forth.

In cases where the question might be sensitive, you can soften it with a preface like Do you mind if I ask?

By using well-crafted questions, you're not only adding value to the mentoring session, you're also likely to learn much more about how to assist the mentee in reaching their highest potential.

Technique #3: Mind Mapping in Mentoring

A mind map is a diagram used to visually organise information into a hierarchy. It typically shows relationships between pieces of the whole.

Mind Map Diagram

The diagram above shows the connections between different parts of the total while visually organising information into a hierarchy. It centres on a single idea that is shown as an image in the middle, to which related representations of the idea, such as images, words, and word fragments, are added. The primary concept is intimately tied to the key concepts, and those major ideas serve as the foundation for other ideas.

Mind maps can be a valuable tool in mentoring relationships — and they don't have to be complicated or fancy. You can start a simple mind map by writing the central issue or topic to be discussed in the centre of a page and circle it. Then, identify and record related issues, arranging them in branches that stem from the central topic.

The associated issues can be further explored in the same manner, resulting in a comprehensive mind map. The mind map can then be utilised to prioritise the most critical ideas to tackle first and determine which are less relevant. This is a great example of one of the mentoring tools and techniques that can prove helpful for a mentee facing difficulties in finding a clear path forward.

Technique #4: Force Field Analysis

Force field analysis is an effective method for weighing the pros and cons of a particular course of action. A plan or proposal is written in the centre of three columns, with favourable factors listed in the first column and unfavourable factors listed in the last column.

Force Field Analysis Diagram

Using Force Field Analysis, you and your team can work through strategies to enhance the factors that support the plan while working to reduce the impact of negative factors. The process of using lines, colours, drawings, or doodles on the analysis will help you reveal fears, expectations, aspirations, and hidden strengths.

Technique #5: Personal Quality Profile

At times when a mentee displays signs of low self-esteem, the Personal Quality Profile technique is useful. It encourages the mentee to list their desirable and positive personal qualities in order to increase their confidence.

Another exercise could be to ask two friends to describe how they see the mentee. And, if their views don't align with the mentee's self perception, you can encourage them to learn why this discrepancy exists.

Technique #6: The Appreciative Inquiry

To help a mentee overcome negativity or feelings of being "stuck", you can facilitate a more positive frame of mind by encouraging them to recall a past experience where they felt successful and proud of what they achieved.

From there you'll find it easier to guide the mentee toward recognising the factors that led to their success and feelings of satisfaction.

Then together you can start exploring ways to incorporate those factors into the present situation to help produce a win.

Mentor Mentee

Technique #7: Visualising Career Scenarios

The Career Scenarios technique involves the mentee creating a visual representation of three possible career paths where they consider their goals, skills, limitations, and understanding of their available opportunities.

Bear in mind this can be a long-term approach which spans multiple career mentoring sessions.

The mentee should be encouraged to add realistic deadlines to their career scenarios and to be flexible in shifting between different versions. This can help mitigate the negative impact of failing to reach certain milestones.

Over time, by taking small steps toward larger goals, a clear career path may emerge which can be very beneficial.

Bonus: Overcoming Inertia

The most important key to anything in life is to simply get started. Procrastination kills. When things don't get started nothing ever gets done. Success is not possible.

I mention this because there's a good chance you're here knowing deep down that an organised mentor/mentee program would help your organisation rise to the next level. And, from experience, we know your deep down feeling is spot on.

So, as the famous saying goes,

Just Do It

Stop procrastinating right now and get started today! There may never be a perfect time, but there will also never be a better time than right this second!

Remember, leaders act.

Simply book a demo or get in touch.

Find out if mentoring software is right for your company.

Take Our 3 Minute Quiz

It might be the best 3 minute investment you'll make all year!

And, if you already know mentoring software is right for you, then   Book a Demo

cartoon person pointing left at the text